Back when I first started blogging, I was obsessed with blog comments, and the comment counts on each post. I remember being excited every time I received a notification of a new comment. It felt like progress. It felt like I was doing something that mattered.
And of course I got into that mind set. How could I not. Every big, successful blog about blogging was talking about the importance of blog comments. I knew I had to do everything I could to start attracting comments to my blog.
Comments eventually began rolling in every time I created a post. But was I really getting anywhere?
In short…no. No I wasn’t.
I’m not knocking blog comments. In fact, I think the commenting system is on of the core components of the whole blogging platform. It creates a an open forum for communication and discussion of ideas. But if you are blogging, and creating content for business, do comments help you cause?
I already discussed 4 blog commenting myths in a guest post on Think Traffic, so I don’t want to get into it too much right now. But I do want to discuss the things I used to do, that I don’t any more, in order to attract comments:
Back when I thought comments were the end-all, be-all of blogging success, I provided incentives to spur discussion on each blog post. I created as many incentives as I could.
Keyword Luv Plugin. This is a plugin that allows visitors to leave a backlink to their own blog and use keywords rather than just their name. This is essentially trading keyword-rich backlinks for a comment.
This also has the benefit of looking less SPAMMY. Instead of using keywords for a name, the commenter can use a real human name, and still get keyword rich backlinks.
Comment Luv Plugin. On top of the Keyword Luv which allowed individuals to get keyword-rich backlinks to their blog, I had Comment Luv installed. This plugin creates a backlink to individual blog posts by using the RSS feed of the blog URL.
So commenters were getting two backlinks per comment. Not bad right?
Do-Follow. On top of these two plugins that created a fairly large incentive to comment, I made these backlinks Do-Follow.
Given that my blog eventually reached a fairly high PR, two Do-Follow backlinks per comment was a pretty nice treat if I do say so myself.
But wait! There’s more….
Most Recent Comments. In the sidebar of the blog, I displayed a list of the most recent commenters on the blog.
Another Do-Follow backlink? You got it.
Top Commenters. And if that wasn’t enough, I also had a list displaying the top commenters of each month. The top 10 most-frequent comments on the blog each month received yet another Do-Follow backlink.
To be honest, I didn’t realize just how much incentive I was creating for blog comments until I just wrote all of that out. And here I thought people really liked what I had to say .
Getting Onto Lists
When you add so much incentive, something interesting happens. You make it to certain lists. And you start getting even more comments.
The problem is, these lists are for backlink-harvesting software and the comments are automatically-generated SPAM comments solely created for the purpose of getting a backlink.
It got so bad that I had to turn off the auto-approve for new comments on the blog.
But at least you’re getting more comments, right?
To be fair, these incentives weren’t the only reason that I received many more comments on the old blog.
I also used to do a lot more commenting myself. I would probably spend 10 hours a week reading through blog posts and leaving a comment.
10 hours per week!
When you’re a one-man show, that is a lot of time to be investing. And for what return?
A New Mindset
I still read blogs. Just not nearly as many as I used to.
And I don’t necessarily always leave a comment once I read a post either. If I’m reading actionable advice I now go and start formulating a plan of how I may be able to implement to get real business results.
More Traffic. You would think that getting more traffic to your blogs means you should be getting more comments on your posts. This is not the case at all.
Within 2 weeks of launching CSH, I was getting more daily visitors here than at the old blog (where I am still getting far more comments).
More Subscribers. Within the first month of launching CSH, I had more subscribers than I had in over a year at the old blog.
More Leads. More subscribers usually translates into more business leads. But business leads also came through direct contact through emails, as well as purchases of my new product. I would rather have a direct email than a blog comment any day.
More Time. I spend less time cleaning out SPAM comments. I also spend less time commenting. This gives more time to produce – to create things that matter (like my blog and content marketing strategy guide).
That Being Said…
I still think that blog comments are important. This is why I keep the commenting system open on this blog. I like to hear feedback. And not having the incentives for commenting makes me feel more at ease that people are leaving comments for discussion, not for backlinks.
And this means that the comment form may not get used. And I am OK with that – something I couldn’t say when I first started blogging.
The bottom line is that comments don’t necessarily translate into business results.
What do you think?
I switched my commenting system over to LiveFyre this year and I also turned off the comments for posts over 30 days old.
Comments and commenting are key for the first year of blogging but after that your time and energy is better focused elsewhere.
I am not concerned with comments on my blog now as much as I was a year ago. I still comment at least 5 days a week though just no more than an hour a day.
Probably by next year I will seldom comment on other blogs either. I think it is just part of the growth of being a blogger.
Last year the majority of my traffic came from blog commenting but this year search traffic has been my number one traffic source.
I think you’re right…its definitely part of the evolution as you grow as a blogger. When I launched CSH I completely put comments on the back burner as a goal. And it has really worked for me. I have more time to do things that can grow my business…and I have found different avenues of obtaining traffic (ones that are much less time consuming, and I think a bit more reliable).
That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy receiving comments, however. Especially ones that are well thought out like this one. So thank you!
You mean to tell me that you don’t want your ego stroked by comment trading!
All I can say is Amen, brotha! Checkout my latest post on HN and you’ll see exactly why I say Amen!
I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve shared here.
It’s much more of an ego stroke when you get a comment without having to leave one first . I know you’re working on big things…it’s all about opportunity cost.
Absolutely true; some months we see heavy traffi
and few comments; recently a post was shared 350x+ on Facebook and still didn’t have a ton of comments. While comments are often validating, audience reach is key.
I would MUCH rather have those social shares than comments. It not only increases your reach directly through the shares, but now with Google’s increased focus on social networking and social sharing, it increases the chances of people seeing it through search results as well. I’m with you…audience reach is the important thing here.
The comment thing is hard. I try not to obsess, but I still occasionally find myself disappointed. But when it comes down to it, you usually have to leave comments to get comments and my time is very limited. So I just try to spend my time where I enjoy it the most. Some days that’s on twitter, some days FB, some days are spent commenting. Great post!
Time is the most valuable resource that we have. I still struggle with optimizing my use of time, but at least I’ve learned my lesson about commenting . It’s all a matter of perspective I guess. Comments do feel like a validation…but so does an increase in traffic, and subscribers, and business leads. And I’d rather have that form of validation .
I have the same results to report
When I first started, I had all those plugins turned on as well (except dofollow). I have hundreds of comments per post.
Then I removed one by one and even stopped commenting as much on other blogs (this only because I didn’t have time to do it anymore).
Results: less comments, more time, less spam, more traffic, more money made, more subscribers.
I am with you on this one
I think there’s is a mathematical formula somewhere in there . Maybe even a scientific law.
I think all of us who have been around a little while are starting to realise that its much better to pursue a business rather than a community. The bottom line is that fellow bloggers don’t tend to be customers. It’s easy to get into habits of commenting on every single post that a person does, and doing the same back.
Just like you, on my last blog I used to get excited when I saw a comment in my inbox. Now I’ve realised that it doesn’t actually matter. I want people to comment because they have an opinion on my content, not because they merely want a backlink to their site or they want me to comment on theirs.
As I said in my post. I could easily get comments on my blog by going to other (small) blogs and commenting on their stuff. But really, what’s the point? It’s just a shallow, time-wasting endless cycle lol.
Great job man. Speak soon.
You make a good point…getting comments back to your blog is actually pretty easy. But it’s time consuming. Is it worth it? I don’t think so…especially if you are trying to establish a business around the blog.
The idea of blog commenting is really being pushed by bloggers who blog about blogging. And if you are big in that arena, you can get away with saying things like that – and make money selling that idea to people.
But unfortunately it just doesn’t hold true for most businesses trying to create content to obtain leads.
I like your perspective here. I agree and disagree with your points.
It all depends on what you are trying to do online. If you are doing an online business, then yeah, comments don’t really matter that much.
But, if you are blogging and writing more for the fun of it and less more the money, then you should care about the comments
I have used some of these plugins in my old blog (and I am still using them for the new one). These things will really increase your reader’s motivation to leave a comment. Yes, I agree, there is a problem of spam comments. But, I took care of them by manually moderating comments (guess that works when you get less than 20 or 30 comments per post ).
I am still using these plugins for my new blog – which is developing. And as you mentioned, I am spending a lot of time commenting on other blogs too.
If you ask me personally, I would prefer to read or write a blog with an active community – not by the number of comments – but by the number of active people who interact with the blog owner and others.
Thanks for the awesome post,
Jeevan Jacob John
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
The distinction you make between a business blog and a hobby blog is definitely important. If you are running a business, your time can be better served elsewhere. Then again, if you are writing just for fun, do you really care if anyone reads it? .
The problem I ran into was having to delete 20-30 SPAM comments per post. It got out of hand. I had to get rid of the incentives.
I think a community can manifest itself in different ways as well. I get more emails than blog comments now. And that is perfectly OK with me. Just because the outside world doesn’t necessarily see the community on your blog, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
I agree with what you say, but I still like getting comments on my blog. Not to stroke my ego, but because I like the interaction. I consider many people who comment as my friends and I like the bantering back and forth. It’s my home and I like it when visitors ring my doorbell.
I also get questions which I can then answer for the benefit of the one, and maybe the others too.
Thanks for stopping by. I definitely enjoy getting comments as much as anyone. To me, it just seems a bit wasteful to focus on getting comments as a goal. I’ve been trying to focus on other metrics that actually signal business success…and it’s had a profound effect.
That’s not to say that commenting and interaction is bad. I obviously have interacted with many amazing people through all the commenting that I used to do.
But comments in and of themselves don’t really product business oriented results (I think ).
“But comments in and of themselves don’t really produce business oriented results”
I totally agree!
Leaving comments on blogs and returning comments on my own does take time, but I’m like Peggy – I enjoy the interaction. It’s also why I like “some” LinkedIn discussions – I enjoy the interaction. And I do think that interaction leads to relationship building. Maybe the returns won’t be in immediate $$ or sales, but it creates a bond that will continue to build on itself.
I also think it matters on the type of product you’re selling on your blog. Some I would never comment on but I might buy the product. Others, I wouldn’t touch the product unless I knew what made the blogger or service provider tick . . . the best of luck on your new strategy!
You do make some great points about relationship building. And I do have to admit that I can attribute having more than a few contacts thanks to blog commenting from the past. But I guess my gripe is with focusing on comments a signal of success (and with people that push that idea). Plus, there are plenty of other avenues to connect with people – like LinkedIn as you mentioned, or a good old fashioned email (crazy that emails are old fashioned already!).
I have figured out some decent ways to get comments and reactions without having to scour the web for sites to comment on. I think building a personal brand has done for me in the way of getting comments more than the actual content.
None the less – this post is extremely valid and I agree with all of your points.
The biggest thing comments do for me is show social proof. I dont blog often so I actually made some of my commented posts show up first – so that when someone who is new to me visits my blog they see that social proof.
I also removed all dates from my blog (post & comments) so that my content doesn’t feel dated.
Again – thanks for the great piece. I just tweeted it and am gonna share it in my linkedin group (which you are a member of
Thanks for stopping by Sean, great to have you here!
I addressed this in my guest post on Think Traffic, but I think that blog comments are really a source of social proof only to other bloggers. Small business owners looking for information really judge a blog on the content. Other bloggers come and see how many comments you get just to compare their own numbers to yours.
At least that’s what I think.
I like the date removal thing. I did the same thing. And I also removed the comment count from the homepage. That way if a visitor likes the headline, they’ll go and read the content without focusing on how many comments the content received (hopefully ).
And thank you for the support!
I’m with you on this one….I used to be interested in comments and stuff. But I’ve come to the realization that most people (not all, but most) who comment are doing it for a back link.
Reading through the comment thread here I saw someone say they’d turned comments off after 30 days. What a freaking great idea…recently I’ve been dealing with so much comment spam on older posts. So I turned comments off after posts are 14 days old.
It’s absolutely crucial to track the right metrics – and that metric will totally depend on your goals.
Rock on man.
I liked that idea of turning off comments for older posts too. I still post at least once per month on Reality Burst because I take part in a monthly blog carnival.
But the amount of SPAM I get on old comments is just out of control.
I spent at least a half hour the other day deleted all the SPAM comments. So I turned off the auto-approval. Now I think I’ll take it one step further.
Anyone who comments just to get a backlink is doing it wrong.
Wrong because commenting on blogs should be about 1) expressing yourself, whether to agree or disagree; and 2) striking up a conversation which may prove fruitful and maybe even initiate a mutually beneficial relationship.
By “mutually beneficial” I do not just mean financially beneficial. What I’m saying is, you should get something personal out of that relationship. Some appreciation for what the other person has to offer.
Put simply, my one goal is to say something, to share. I’ve engaged with people who run obscure blogs because I wanted to show my appreciation. That was my sole concern.
There’s something else, which I don’t think anybody ever discusses — commenting on blogs helps you with your writing. Anybody who wants to become a better writer should engage with bloggers on a regular basis. You have to make sure your comment is clear and intelligible. That it contributes something to the conversation. No easy task, that.
Improving one’s writing skills couldn’t possibly hurt, could it?
John – i think most people are taught to get out there and comment to get traffic…it’s a frequently seen meme around the old blogosphere when the talk turns to traffic.
But you can tell the people who are doing that, they leave short, bland comments that rarely mean anything to anyone.
What I try and do when I comment these days – and it’s not that often anymore – is to use the comment thread to share a point of view, or a piece of information.
If that takes 100 words, great.
If it takes 500 words, great. I’ve left comments before that were longer than the original article.
I think a good comment thread can be awesome – an educational experience for the host blogger and his or her community.
Sadly what i see is people commenting for links/traffic and their comments being mostly glorified ass kissing.
That’s a real shame IMO because a good comment thread can transcend the original post. Or can spin off into multiple posts as other bloggers pick up a thread they find in the comments that stimulates an idea.
I’ve tried to ‘stir’ this up before and get people disagreeing and debating issues…but it rarely works. Few people it seems have the brass balls to stand up and say: No way, that’s wrong. And here’s why.
I wish more would!
(Oh and great idea to use blog comments as writing practice too! Sadly my blog comments tend to be more like freewriting with no structure and an unedited splurge!)
I’ve seen some of those comments Paul, a few were more valuable than the actual post. You could have taken those ideas and written your own post, but you left a comment instead…very unselfish .
As far as writing practice goes, I think writing actual posts is much better practice than leaving comments. Although leaving a few comments to start off the day might get your fingertips used to the keyboard.
Nothing wrong with leaving a comment if a post warrants it. Just shouldn’t focus on receiving comments as a metric of success.
That’s true, it certainly couldn’t hurt.
And I can’t deny that blog commenting has its advantages – if you’re doing it right as you say. Unfortunately most people don’t.
And this is really an indictment of the mindset that you have to have a lot of comments on your blog posts in order to have a successful blog – that is far from the truth.
Excellent post on a rarely addressed topic. So glad I found this (thanks Paul).
I kinda… want it all.
Quality comments to me, are indicators of an engaged community, spearheaded by my content as a discussion-started.
Shares are indicators that people feel my message is strong, clear, and valuable enough to spread and reflect well on them as they do so.
Subscribers are indicators that people desire to relate to me and what I stand for.
Conversions are people who have made a substantial committment to support me.
So yeah, comments, shares, subscribers, conversions…
I want it all.
Either way, a wonderful, amazing, eye-opening post from someone who’s clearly ‘been there’, thanks Eugene!
Having it all would be wonderful .
I’d even venture to say it’s possible. It just takes time. And since I am a one man show, there are certain things that I need to focus on…and getting comments on my blog posts just isn’t a top priority.
I think as you create more and more quality content, and share it, and people take notice…the commenting will come.
Of course comments come with popularity…and then we’re back to people leaving comments for all the wrong reasons.
But if I ever reach that point with this blog, at least it won’t be because of my rewarding people for leaving useless comments.
You know what I really love about your response Eugene?
You opened with:
a) Encouragement of my dream
b) Validation of it’s “possibility”
and then went on to share your experiences and understandings.
Those are my favourite ingredients of quality comments.
As well, I love your take on not rewarding people for useless comments. I had to learn about rewarding people the hard way.
We’re all training everyone how we want them to act + respond, in our world.
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